Borders Egypt, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, and Eritrea; also has some coastline on the Red Sea. It's the largest country in Africa. Contains most of the southern portion of the Nile River and its sources the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Before 1956 it was ruled by Egypt and the United Kingdom. Right now it is in the middle of a civil war between the Islamic government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (who have been fighting for over 15 years, causing famines as people are cut off from food supplies by fighting).

Update 2011: The southern part of the country became independent on Saturday, July 9, 2011 under the name of South Sudan.

In 1989 a group of army officers, led by General Omar al-Bashir, seized power in Sudan and ended three years of democracy and an elected parliament. This was more than just another military coup. Behind the general was a group called the Islamic Liberation Front, led by Hassan al-Turabi. This group wanted to turn Sudan into a more radical Islamic country. Other former governments had introduced Shari'ah, or Islamic Law, and persecuted non-Muslim minorities. Bashir's government went further. They arrested and tortured the opposition, effectively imposed a ban on alcohol and mixed social gatherings, sent Muslim missionaries into the south, and recruited volunteers into Islamic militias for the fight in the war.

Sudan has hosted radical Arab and Islamic groups from other countries. This practice earned them the censure of the United States, which in 1993 put them on the list of countries it accuses of supporting terrorism.

Sudan under this new fundamentalist order is still not as strict as many Muslim countries. Although women wear headscarves and conform to the Islamic dress codes, they are often colourful and brightly designed when compared to the drab blue and black veils you might see in Afghanistan, or Jordan.

The current conflict in Sudan is fueled by a number of factors - race, religion and money. The discovery of large oil supplies in the country has attracted western oil producers, and income generated by these wells is being used by the Sudanese government to fund the war effort. Sudan now has the resources to manufacture its own small arms and military vehicles.

Sudan is the home of a lucrative slave trade. People displaced by the war, or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time are being kidnapped and sold into slavery. Western organizations have been attempting to buy the freedom of large numbers of slaves, but this policy is seen by many to be exacerbating the problem.


Our 853 kilometers of sandy coastline on the Red Sea.

Our rivers – your favorites merging where the White Nile joins the Blue.

Our sunny vacation home at the confluence of rivers.

The mansion with many rooms we share,

With our animist cousins to the tropical south,

With our muslim cousins to the arid north.

Do you remember the time we signed that

ceasefire between 1972 and 1982?

The Revolutionary Command Council got drunk and said

“We have inadequate supplies of potable water!”

They fired rocket-propelled grenades,

supplied by the council’s former alignment with the eastern bloc.

No mention of our petroleum, small reserves of iron ore,

copper, chromium ore, zinc, gold,

tungsten, mica, and hydropower.

Hydropower! You turn the turbine’s blade on our beloved rivers!

Mica! You brighten the paint of our home!

Tungsten! You form the lamp’s filament, lit by hydropower!

Don’t you remember our rituals of hospitality?

A sheep slaughtered in your honor,

fruits are peeled and cut in small slices for dessert,

the unusual teas of the tourism council?

These should be our leading export.

Get on our large, and by regional standards, well-equipped telephone system

and call Cousin Al Qadarif! Call Cousin Wau!

Tell them both to meet us at the summer house!

We have prepared a table of:

groundnuts, sorghum, millet,

wheat, gum arabic, sugarcane, cassava,

mangos, papaya, bananas, sweet potatoes,

sesame, sheep.

Oh, cousins of the south!

Let there be no stricture on your spirits!

They may rise from a gourd!

Oh, cousins of the north!

Let there be no graven image!

Allah also made the gourd!


Come to our mansion.

At the confluence of rivers.

At the intersection of tables.

At the tabulation of lives.

Two million guests are waiting for you.

Africa has long been a hotbed of political and ethnic conflict, but here is an attempt to break down the blanket conception of violence on this continent. First, it is important to know that the countries of Africa DO have different reasons for their varied conflicts. In this case, I will concentrate on "the Sudan". This conflict is especially complex and especially interesting because their civil war has been going on longer than any other country on the continent.

North and South Sudan have developed separate identities over the course of history. Northern Sudan has achieved some cohesiveness by means of Islamic and Arabic influences. Southern Sudan has achieved some cohesiveness by means of an black-African identity and the common experience of oppression. However, there never has been one big happy country called Sudan.

Why is there not one Sudan?
First, let us begin with the interpretation of the conflict by outsiders, which is quite important to the way the conflict can/will be resolved. Many historians (including myself) believe that the historical roots of the conflict have been misrepresented. When the roots are misconstrued, the conflict as a whole is misconstrued. One misconception is that the divide between North and South is based on the fact that there were slave raids committed upon the South by the Northern Arabs. The other misconception is that the disparity is caused by the Sudan being "artificially split by imperialist meddling". It is a lot deeper than that.

Prior attempts to unite Sudan have been unsuccessful because the difference between North and South is simplified to the differences between the "Arabized Muslims" and the "non-Arab, non-Muslims". This approach clearly is not effective. Sudan is an area that has never been entirely controlled by one government. When the Turkish/Egyptian invasion occurred in the nineteenth century, the invaders managed to control most of the Arab and Muslim tribes in Northern Sudan. After that, the British/Egyptian "Condominium" ruled Sudan until independence. However, South Sudan was never fully under the authority of either of these regimes. When Great Britain indirectly ruled Sudan during those fifty years, there seemed to be a strained pacification. However, no one since the 1950s has been able to put the South fully under control.

Adding Fuel to the Fire
The most critical time in Sudan's development was the last ten years before Sudan's independence. The colonial powers came up with the idea that there should be a unified state. They pushed the North and South together. The North then attempted to dominate the south. The relationship between North and South has been rather predatory. The North exploited the South for slaves, soldiers, and food supplies.

When it was becoming clear that the North and South would not live peacefully as one state, a different tactic as been utilized by most, if not all, successive governments. The North has been bent on Arabicizing the South, but there has been too much resistance. So, governments have attempted to rule Sudan as a divided state. However, most of these governments have been preoccupied with securing themselves in power, instead of resolving the inequities between the areas of the country. Divides within North and South have appeared over time, with different Muslim groups in the North arguing over rule, and tribes in the South being played off each other for political favors. It seems as though any government will be inexplicably based in the North, and that government cannot (or will not) find a way to share the country fully with the peoples of the South.

Another interesting point made by academics (mostly sociologists) is that that while the North sees itself as being Arab, and the South as African, it is not a case of ethnicity. The Arab north and the African south is more of a case of “two identities with differing perspectives on the universe” . Sociologists attribute much of the strife to the fact that monetary rewards and political power are usually translated into ethnic grievances. Ethnicity is a way to gain power. By adding this element to the picture, we can see how it is even more complex and difficult for the Sudan to achieve a unified nationalist vision.

To add another element to an already bleak looking picture, it is clear that the Arab Sudanese get support from other Arab countries, and African Sudanese have no one to back them up. The North, whether they had initially intended to or not, had inexplicably aligned themselves with colonial powers (Egypt, etc.). When Sudan achieved its independence, the government of the North took over, which the South just saw as one colonial power being replaced by another.

Is there a conclusion?
By definition it would not seem feasible to call rule by a part of a country over another part “colonialism”, but the tactics and the allegiances were nearly the same. The South had no say in the matter, and were still being subjugated by a culturally different group of people. The North, while they may not be of a different race, are clearly of a different heritage. Whether the Arab ancestry is one that is truly there or just ascribed to, the Northern powers do not see themselves as being the same people as the Southerners. The South, in itself, should not be simplified into one group, but it can be classified simply as being “non-Arab” or “non-Muslim” for the purpose of describing the divide.

Sudan is the country that has been at civil war longer than any other country in Africa, and clearly there is still no solution to the problems there. Differences in ideologies and heritage have created a distinct rift in the country. Whether the problem is looked at sociologically, historically, politically, or even anthropologically, there is still no clear solution. Peace and a unified national identity is clearly the goal, but the means have yet to be discovered.


Dunstan Wai's The African-Arab Conflict in Sudan (New York: African Publishing Company, 1981).

Johnson's The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003)

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